Coalition Members of Parliament today said regional commuters face extended delays, cancelled services and deserve answers after it was revealed by Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan that VLocity services would be banned from the Pakenham rail line for at least a further 6 weeks.
Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood said Minister for Transport Jacinta Allan had mislead commuters about the extent of issues on the Gippsland Line and that no real answers had been provided.
‘Today the Minister for Public Transport announced 6 more weeks of unacceptable service disruption for Gippsland commuters and the best she could manage during her press conference was to say she was cross and disappointed while accepting the VLine CEO Theo Taifalos’s resignation,’ Mr Blackwood said.
‘The offer of free travel being extended for one week is not enough and a token gesture at best. ‘Gippsland commuters should not be required to pay for their journey until the service is running again at full capacity be that the estimated 6 weeks or longer.
‘It is extremely concerning to read reports today and see that there is still no definitive answer about why these issues have arisen, what may be causing them or how the Andrews Government can even fix them within the 6 week timeframe given by the Minister.
‘Jacinta Allan needs to offer real compensation to regional commuters who have to now live with this issue day after day for the foreseeable future,’ Mr Blackwood said.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said his constituents had voiced their frustration clearly and expressed that a lack of information from both the Andrews Government and VLine had only made the issue worse.
‘My office has been inundated with calls from local commuters who say they have been forced to endure slow journeys, unexplained cancellations and massive delays,’ Member for Morwell Russell Northe said.
‘Jacinta Allan has today said that she was provided with initial information about issues on the Pakenham line that was “not accurate”, that is simply not good enough an excuse for commuters and they are right to be angry.
‘Last week the Minister stated trains would be resuming this week which was clearly misleading and she should take responsibility for not asking the right questions of the operator and her Department.
Mr Northe said the time had come for the Andrews Government to commit to the Coalition’s plan for a better Gippsland service by investing in major infrastructure upgrades previously planned. ‘The Victorian Coalition had a strong long term plan to improve the Gippsland Line including signal upgrades, line duplication and new passenger carriages.
‘The Andrews Government did not commit to that plan and since coming to government has ignored the needs of the Gippsland Line in favour of other services and today’s announcement demonstrates.
‘Real questions need to be answered by the Minister as to why only the Gippsland Line is facing these issues and why other regional centres are already back on track where solutions have been found to allow services to resume.
‘Labor has a long history of neglect on the Gippsland Line. It chose to completely exclude Gippsland in 2009 from its Regional Rail Link project, which delivered multi-billion dollar infrastructure upgrades to the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo rail network but did nothing for our region.
‘The situation commuters now find themselves in is because of that failure, and today’s announcement vindicates that Gippsland commuters well understand that the Andrews Government is not serious about investing in the Gippsland Line,’ Mr Northe said.